Here is where USC’s top prospects stand ahead of the NFL Scouting Combine

Southern California linebacker Drake Jackson, top, sacks Colorado quarterback Brendon Lewis
USC linebacker Drake Jackson sacks Colorado quarterback Brendon Lewis on Oct. 2 in Boulder, Colo. Jackson has added 40 pounds of bulk since the end of the season in preparation for the NFL Scouting Combine.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Drake Jackson can’t tell you why he couldn’t put on weight at USC. But as hard as the Trojans’ top edge rusher tried last season, stuffing himself every moment he could, the extra meals never seemed to stick. By the end of the season, Jackson measured in at a mere 238 pounds, far lighter than he — or NFL scouts — were hoping.

So when his training for the NFL scouting combine began at Exos in the offseason, adding weight was a top priority. Now, with nothing else to do but train, the pounds piled up.

“This is what I was trying to do at SC,” Jackson said. “I couldn’t gain a pound to save my life. Got here, then got humongous.”


It’s not an exaggeration. Weighing in at nearly 270 pounds ahead of this week’s combine, the hulking Jackson barely fit inside the frame of a Zoom conversation he had with The Times last week. Muscles bulged in every direction.

The Pac-12 voting ‘no’ on the College Football Playoff expansion at the moment was a big blow for the SEC and opens the door to playoff equity.

His new size should help endear him to draft scouts who once saw Jackson as a surefire first-round pick. That status was called into question last season, as Jackson struggled to live up to the sky-high expectations in place from his freshman campaign, when his 5.5 sacks had some dreaming about his pass-rush potential.

He never matched that total again over two more seasons. But with the extra weight on his frame, Jackson is sure he won’t have any problem proving himself at the combine.

Forty pounds heavier, he said, “I still feel like a freak, you know?”

How convinced scouts are by that transformation should become clear this week.

“Just can’t wait to go put on a show, man,” Jackson said.


Drake London, WR

USC wide receiver Drake London speaks during a news conference Wednesday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)


The potential top receiver in the draft won’t work out in Indianapolis while he continues to recover from the ankle injury that ended his final season at USC. But London told reporters Wednesday that he plans to take part in USC’s Pro Day later this month.

That showcase will be crucial for London as NFL scouts suss out questions, not only about the All-American wideout’s ankle, but also his speed and ability to separate. A 40 time in the 4.5 range could go a long way to ensuring London is selected near the top of the draft.

He’s trending in that direction right now, as teams have finally turned to his tremendous film from last season, when he caught 88 passes for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games while leading all of college football in contested catches. Some prognosticators have already slotted London inside the draft’s top 10, in front of other top wideouts like Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Alabama’s Jameson Williams.


Keaontay Ingram, RB

USC running back Keaontay Ingram runs with the ball against Arizona on Oct. 30 at the Coliseum.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

When Ingram first heard that Lincoln Riley had been hired as USC’s coach, he admits he seriously considered coming back for another season in the Trojans backfield.


Ingram met with Riley, who tried to sell him on a workhorse role that would ask him to line up all over the field.

“That’s a role I’ve been looking for since I’ve been in college football,” Ingram said. “It was a pretty good talk. But like I told him, I’ll be 23 playing running back next year. Sometimes, you have to make a business decision.”

How that decision works out in the upcoming draft will depend in part on the impression Ingram leaves this week in Indianapolis. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be drafted, but after a strong showing in the Shrine Bowl, Ingram is confident he can capitalize.

“The combine is going to help me dramatically,” Ingram said.


Chris Steele and Isaac Taylor-Stuart, cornerbacks

USC cornerback Chris Steele breaks up a pass intended for Notre Dame receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr
USC cornerback Chris Steele breaks up a pass intended for Notre Dame receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr. on Oct. 23 in South Bend, Ind.
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

Once seen as early-round prospects, both of USC’s starting corners from last season will have plenty to prove through the draft process.


Neither lived up to their full potential while playing in Los Angeles, but both have skill sets and measurables that suggest they could find their way with the right NFL team. Those tools should be on display this week.

For Steele, his size — at 6 feet 1, 190 pounds — and physicality should help get him drafted in the later rounds. But there will be questions to answer about his penchant for penalties.

Taylor-Stuart’s stock is less certain, but his straight-line speed should turn some heads this week. Don’t be surprised if he tests among the fastest defensive backs at the combine.